A nation breathed a sigh of relief as Harry Kane’s late winner sealed a deserved three points for a determined England against Tunisia.
The Three Lions could have been forgiven for thinking it was going to be another one of those days. A thunderous opening 20 minutes had England on the front foot as Harry Kane stroked in after a tremendous save from the Tunisian goalkeeper.
However, the referee gave the Eagles of Carthage a contentious penalty after Kyle Walker swung an arm at forward, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef.
Ferjani Sassi stepped up to knock the spot kick past Jordan Pickford. Jesse Lingard managed to miss chance after chance as Gareth Southgate’s side battered down the Tunisian door.
It just wouldn’t come, though, as England went into the break, somehow, at just 1-1. There was a real sense of injustice amongst the crowd.
The tempo slowed in the second half as Tunisia settled in behind the ball and defended resiliently. Southgate made changes as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Marcus Rashford made their entrance.
More chances came and went as it looked like England would have to settle for a point in their Group G opener. But with just 120 seconds to play, deep into stoppage time, Kane nodded cleverly in at the back post to put his team on course for three important points.
The sense of relief was palpable at the final whistle. It was the difference between the Three Lions squad starting off on the front foot or the early tournament buzz being blunted.
But Southgate has brought one of the youngest squads to the tournament. And their vim and vigour shone through as the enthusiasm to grab a winner carried the team to a huge win.
Tunisia didn’t really show too much ambition going forward and were happy to sit back and soak up English pressure. But that told in the end as Kane popped up in the right spot, at the right time.
If England can nudge their way past Panama on Sunday, it should put them on a collision course with Belgium to see who tops the group. Southgate’s squad are 2/11 to bag all three points against the Panamanians. And they’re 9/5 to beat Belgium in the final group clash.
It’s an optimistic start, but, could football actually be coming home?
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